Skin Cancer! Know the facts!!
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin. For tourists visiting and expats living in Thailand alike then special attention and precautions should be made due to the strong ultraviolet sunlight in the region.
The term ‘non-melanoma’ distinguishes these more common kinds of skin cancer from the less common skin cancer known as melanoma which spreads faster in the body.
The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a lump or patch on the skin that doesn’t heal after a few weeks.
In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm, while cancerous patches are often flat and scaly.
See your GP if you have any skin abnormality that hasn’t healed after four weeks. Although it is unlikely to be skin cancer, it is best to be sure.
Types of non-melanoma skin cancer
Non-melanoma skin cancers usually develop in the outermost layer of skin (epidermis) and are often named after the type of skin cell from which they develop.
The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:
basal cell carcinoma – starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis and accounts for about 75% of skin cancers
squamous cell carcinoma – starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and accounts for about 20% of skin cancers
Why does it happen?
Non-melanoma skin cancer is mainly caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light comes from the sun, as well as artificial sunbeds and sunlamps.
In addition to UV light overexposure, there are certain things that can increase your chances of developing non-melanoma skin cancer, such as:
a family history of the condition
pale skin that burns easily
a large number of moles or freckles
A dermatologist should examine your skin and will perform a biopsy if they think it is necessary to confirm a diagnosis of skin cancer.
A biopsy is an operation that removes some affected skin so it can be studied under a microscope.
Treating non-melanoma skin cancer
Surgery is the main treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer. This involves removing the cancerous tumour and some of the surrounding skin.
Other treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer include cryotherapy, creams, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a treatment known as photodynamic therapy (PDT).
Treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer is generally successful as, unlike most other types of cancer, there is a considerably lower risk that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body.
It is estimated that basal cell carcinoma will spread to other parts of the body in less than 0.5% of cases. The risk is slightly higher in cases of squamous cell carcinoma, which spreads to other parts of the body in around 2-5% of cases.
Treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer is completely successful in approximately 90% of cases.
Non-melanoma skin cancer is not always preventable, but you can reduce your chances of developing the condition by avoiding overexposure to UV light.
You can help protect yourself from sunburn by using sunscreen, dressing sensibly in the sun and limiting the time you spend in the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Sunbeds and sunlamps should also be avoided.
Regularly checking your skin for signs of skin cancer can help lead to an early diagnosis and increase your chances of successful treatment.
For more information on skin cancer or if you would like to make an appointment to see a dermatologist then contact Phyathai Sriracha Hospital on 089 – 7500293 Email [email protected] www.phyathai-sriracha.com